My experience of studying Fine Art.

10402600_10152523585369646_9125558799362981656_nSo I came out of it, eventually, with a distinction and a job. These were my intentions, which I would never have been able to achieve had I not gone through the angst and judgement of the MA degree. This course was in some ways more difficult even than it had been to do a PhD at Cambridge University. Going to ‘the other side’ of town, no gown, at the polytechnic, you’d think it might be a doddle.
However, I had never studied art before. Roused only by passion and belief, it was quite a different thing to enter an education, at Masters level, with inadequate talent and experience (I came to see).

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the constant challenges that studying for a completely different kind of degree offered me. I grew in new, unforeseen dimensions. It was exciting to give birth to art that was my very own – new, nude, bizarre, deeply personal and totally experimental. I learned how to use new mediums, such as analogue film, installation and performance.

10563046_10152523587839646_4401918327498265016_nI went a long way away from the equine archetype of Stubbs, once a muse a lifetime ago. I also did things that were completely unexpected. What my parents would call ‘avant g’arde’. They would then say that they didn’t understand what it meant. Missing the point, but still having a point.

Since I did not actually do very well. And I come out of the degree feeling far less of an artist than I did going into it. This is because, I feel, once an artwork is assessed, criticised and judged, then graded, marked and given a percentage, this process of metric evaluation and the eternal damnation it puts down in black and white, then destroys the artwork (and the artist). It is no longer art once it has been judged and marked.

Gaining low marks on my initial works, which were voluptuous and massive paintings (throwing plaster on the walls) made me decide to give up painting. I still paint, as you can see, but only privately from now on. Ever since the lecturers demolished my paintings by marking them downwards.

Gaining low marks on my final work, which was the most personal and deeply meaningful piece I have ever made (and quite a triumphal achievement to be able to make it at all, I thought), made me angry. These marks, and the comments I received, also removed my right to call myself an artist. As one of the lecturers said to me (informally, and I paraphrase), ‘You’re an academic, not an artist.’ I left a wire showing in my installation. There were ‘tensions’ and ‘internal struggles’ evident. I did not do a good job.

10615507_10152523585564646_6371601993027902860_nBut I did do a good job. This work epitomised the triumphs I have achieved in my basic life. I am sorry that it is wrong to express these triumphs, and to find the meaning in my own story so important to tell. But it is still important, even if you don’t think it makes good art. What right do you have to say that anyway? Why does your subjective taste matter?

As you can see, I’m still a bit angry. But I still got a distinction anyway so I really should let that go now…… What have I learned from doing this degree? I have learned that I do not want to mark or judge art. I do not want to break students’ hearts by criticising what they produce. I do not think this is kind.

I went into the degree thinking that I wanted to teach in an art school. I come out, with a job in the school across the campus, Media and Film, realising that I am better equipped to teach people about art, rather than judging art itself. I am now teaching critical theory, film, philosophy, deep ideas and such. More like what I was studying for my MPhil and PhD. I’m really enjoying this. I also feel welcomed and valued, which is strange, but comforting.

10441037_10152523588189646_4801558377761047511_nI’m not saying that the MA Fine Art was bad, or that I wouldn’t advise people to do it themselves, it’s just that the greatest thing I learned during this course was its apparent demise: once an artwork is judged or marked or graded, it is no longer art. It becomes that mark or grade, and nothing else. This can destroy the artist, who then (in my case) destroys that art, which never made the grade.

In the end I did make the grade, and I got the job. But the process still destroyed my burning need to call myself an artist. I will always be an artist, privately. And not so privately, since I am doing a performance in Australia next week. But according to comments I received on my performance in the MA Fine Art degree, I’m not really an artist. I’m an academic.

It could be worse and it doesn’t really matter. I mean, it does matter of course, I’m always trying to work out who I am. I can never work it out. I guess, still, I’m schizoaffective. Rhyzomatic. Oh look! I’ve gone into concepts! How academic!!

The art is there too. And always will be. With the horses! So things are good.

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Planning my Major Project (MA Fine Art)

IMG_3595Masters Project: Art & Design. PROPOSAL.

Lorna Collins Comeback’

SYNOPSIS

This work is about the physicality and ungraspability of memory, which has roots in something very physical, material, and tactile. I project a cacophony of sounds and images in the exhibition space, as flashes of data that stimulate and form the content of sudden, involuntary recollections. Comeback is an impossible attempt to grasp hold of these recollections, in order to secure and place the history and meaning of my life.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

I respond to having total amnesia as a result of a chronic head injury 14 years ago, after falling off a horse. I lost all memories of my previous life, and also – to some degree – the capacity to remember (as elements from my personal history, even after the accident, continued to dissolve). But now, 14 years later, I suddenly experience a multitude of vivid memories. I feel whole again. This happened as a result of returning to the horses, after so many broken years apart from them. The physicality of my new, instantaneous, spontaneous, refound bond with the horses triggers memory involuntarily. Suddenly I relive the past. I make a comeback. This exhibition space thence becomes a space for the decollage of flashing memories that reshape and nourish my mind. Analogue filmic images and sounds flicker in random succession. These audio and visual flashbacks are objective, tactile fragments of gorgeous memories about a blissful youth, with the horses on a farm in the countryside.

This installation exposes how my refound relationship with the horses suddenly and surprisingly triggers memory. Sounds and images re-emerge in my mind, of horses’ hooves, the chickens clucking, the opening of rusty gates, the laughter of youth and success. These sounds are rich with associations and develop new meanings and vigour with their new entry into my life. This is what I project, intermittent with flashing images (like broken dreams) to create a spatialising of time lost and regained. This is a Deleuzian time-image, which contains an auric aspect that bears the shock of self-recognition, self-realisation, of returning home, when I suddenly remember who I am.

This trajectory involves Walter Benjamin’s work on aura and the photograph, where he talks about ‘physical memory’, or the shocking moment, a flash, which kickstarts a memory. The shock is about something being made visible again. This is like me – as soon as I get on the horse life slips back into place. I have flashing memories. Benjamin uses Proust – where the taste of Madeleine cake sparks off the memory of things past. This is involuntary memory as well as spontaneous recollection.

Memory spatialises time. My exhibition of flashbacks then curates time. This is space-bound time. The point of my show is to create a lexicon to secure and make sense of what has eluded me for 14 years. In this respect I am influenced by arte povera artist Yannis Kounnellis’s using horses as objects, where history is played out in a performance, like Beuys.

I will use recorded sounds that are evocative of memory, that speak to and from my soul. My installation will comprise of spatial zones that have sound. Influenced by Christina Kubisch, I want my art to speak the sonic landscape that I have been away from for so long. Sound-bites will hover around irregular, rushing visual cues. Together the audio-visual data presents an elastic stimulus for recollection.

Walking into the installation, the viewer perceives how my memories have become spatialised, and held, in time. The impossibility of this procedure (since memories are so elusive and ungraspable, like time itself) is reflected in the cacophonic and random projection of multiple stimuli (just like the involuntary shock and cacaphonic randomness of my sudden memories). What brings the work together, to create a unifying (rather than disperate) aesthetic experience, is the joy of fate (which has returned my life to me) and the materiality, physicality and tactility of memories – from the horses – which make me feel so alive.

I envisage curating a medium-sized section of a studio (3x3x3m) which has 3 or 4 sides. It would be a room with three walls and an open entrance (with a piece of material covering it), or, ideally, it would have four enclosed walls so the flashes of sound and images are contained as a narrative within the space, which the viewer enters and moves around. I would use 2 or 3 projectors and several speakers. I would place objects and touchy-feely materials (a horse shoe, horse hair colleted stamps, jute, soda crystalls, baby oil, abstract tactile images painted) randomly on the walls (arte povera/Beuys). The sounds are the same as those which my mother played to me when I was in a coma – of the farm, waking up. It took a long time for me to wake up. But now I have. I want to treasure this moment forever. The horses pay a large part in my new state of mind. This is why my Major Project has its base and drive from their connection with me. Such a profound connection will be expressed in a public performance.

KEY RESEARCH SOURCES (please give an outline of key bibliographic sources, and references to outside agencies where appropriate)

Proust À la rechèrche du temps perdû

Benjamin on Proust, Baudelaire and aura

Miriam Bratu Hansen (Benjamin’s aura)

Christina Kubisch (sound)

Monty Roberts ‘The Horse Whisperer’

Arte povera

Joseph Beuys

PRACTICAL RESOURCES REQUIRED

To spend time with the horses – to continue to trigger memories, begin and develop our performance.

To delve into the archives of my personal history, as recorded in at least 5-600 journals, diaries, albums, records, letters and sketchbooks, which are in the vaults at the farm where I grew up.

Experimenting with making sound and visual projections, and different objects and materials in the exhibition space.

The Installation at Interplay

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Ephemeral yet deeply felt

I tilt towards epiphany

when sounds can stink and touch my throat

remotely groping sanity.

Much of such rich synchrony

is wrinkling into symphony

of multiple personas.

“Disorder” springs and threatens me

when they snatch and take my freedom.

A wretch, now, I fetch the score

but will always-only fail.

My tale unrails the system,

when crystals crumble order.

Burdened here, I flounder,

ever standing under

the weight of wonder’s world.

Here surly, curled up toil

bars my route with tape

entwined around the nape

grinding up my neck.

I try to heckle faculties

that wreck my plans

and take my hope,

coping with ineptitude

(crudely stewed with blued-up mood)

that’s rudely reawakened.

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Here I paint my universe,

its curses and reversals,

nursing all those plans that failed,

rerailed, rewound, and cast abound

so I had to start again.

My paint performs the consequence

and holds me ever after:

reforming stints

and crafting tents

that hint at lending starter-vents

which rent my tinted laughter

till it comes to graft new shafters

that support my thought

and hold its tautened rifts

until I find my voice.

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Choice becomes permissible

through testing moistened icicles

as paint protrudes the surface-rules

and pokes right through my flesh.

A bush for meshed up messed up floss,

Glossy now, set free and tossed unto

the rostrum of a public view,

newly crude but stewed and glued

by stimulus for the senses.

There are spaces for their Interplay

where winter days’ sparse rays of daze

are gazing at the paintings’ phase

of blazing ingenuity

fluidly accessible if

one dares to grasp the oracle

and open up the eyes.

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Self-marketing

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I have now finished editing my thesis-book and am ready to send it to Bloomsbury, for publication in the beginning of 2014. This means that I will have 2 books coming out next year, which should, I hope, increase my chances of setting one foot (of both) onto the ladder of finding my career as: 1. an arts educator; 2. an artist; 3. an art critic; 4. a critical theorist; 5. a poet. Hope that one of these avenues should finally work out in my favour is challenging, given the difficult atmosphere posed by trying to get a job (any job) in academia or the art world. Cuts, redundancies, apathy and immense competition for (very few) places means that having a PhD from Cambridge is not sufficient to secure my future by any means. My current work as an MA Fine Art student is thoroughly enjoyable and it confirms my love and need to practice as an artist and to teach in an arts school. It also confirms various premises that I theorised in my doctoral thesis, and which I refine in my forthcoming book. However, the MA Fine Art may not be the key to getting a job — either at Anglia Ruskin, or Cambridge Regional College, or any sort of art school (anywhere in the world) — as I had hoped. However, I will maintain my diligence and effort to try and sell my knowledge, skills, experience and passion for art. These factors may be running dry at present, when all my plans of action dissolve and have disappointing non-consequences, but I must retain my fighting spirit and keep at it.

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FYI, here is my proposal for the latest job application — for a position as lecturer in sculpture/installation at Anglia Ruskin:

My teaching experience and knowledge of current trends in art (its practice, theory, history, education policy, criticism) develops from my career as an artist, writer and arts educator. This would be suitably directed towards the lectureship in Fine Art (Sculpture/Installation) at the Cambridge School of Art. My proficiency as an artist and a teacher begins from considering and applying every artistic act as an installation. I have shown my own installations across the world, and I have developed philosophical and practical understandings about this art form, as well as sculpture, painting, film and performance, which would enhance the syllabus and praxis developed for students at CSA.

I graduated from the University of Cambridge with a PhD in art theory, with a thesis that provoked and expanded art practice as a critical form of thinking and a transformative method of research. I’m currently working on 2 books that are due to be published early next year, with Bloomsbury. I decided to study for the MA Fine Art at CSA to increase my chances of securing a lectureship such as this one. I am flourishing here and it tempts my appetite for working in this kind of environment ever more. I have enrolled to study on the PG Cert Learning and Teaching (HE), which begins in January. Both the PG Cert and this lectureship are part-time; if I won the position I would then change my MA Fine Art to being part-time, in order to have sufficient time and resources to achieve a qualification in teaching, a qualification in Fine Art, and, most importantly, the lectureship I dream of undertaking. I am incredibly diligent, focused and hardworking, and excellent at multi-tasking and time management.

I was voted in as Course Rep for all the MA Fine Art/Printmaking students. This role has shown me how Anglia Ruskin University operates. I understand the student-focused ethos and the value placed on improving student satisfaction. I would focus on making the students’ learning a highly motivating, inspirational experience. I would do this by informing and stimulating the students in relation to theoretical issues alongside the practical needs of art (particularly in sculpture and installation, my chosen specialty), encouraging and animating talent and zeal, so that students can work together to create a dynamic, innovative and progressive department. My own work at CSA has taken place largely in collaboration with the 3D workshop, with Malcolm Evans and Alistair Burgass. My paintings are definitively sculptural (bursting into 3 dimensions); their exposition is an installation (opening a 4th dimension). My work in the 3D workshop, and my knowledge of how the machines operate, would put me in a good position for this lectureship.

My own research would make a significant contribution to the academic quality of research at CSA. My doctoral studies developed into a growing movement of thought, and series of annual colloquia, called ‘Making Sense’, which I founded in 2009. This lead me to organize and lead large-scale public events at the Centre Pompidou, in Paris, the Whitney Humanities Centre, Yale University, and The Metropolitan Museum, New York. These events were provocative and interactive installations of and for sense-making procedures. The different art theories, critical studies, media and practices that came about (as a result of my direction) continue to provide innovative and interactive source material. This could contribute to the research culture at CSA, particularly in light of its implications for the REF 2014, with such socially engaged artwork.

In this regard I am interested in how art can express, react to and transform social disturbances, collective traumas and group ‘norms’ associated with systematic violence. The mediums of installation and sculpture are particularly apposite to engage with these timely demands. My vision for this lectureship is concerned with the fabrication and distribution of knowledge, through learning and applying practical, tacit skills, and generating a reflective commentary, all the time engaging with three or more dimensions (through sculpture and installation, dimensions are endless).

From this background I have a proven record of achievement in international, cross-disciplinary and exceptional research. My aptitude for the position at CSA is also demonstrated by my teaching experiences in Paris and Cambridge, where I have developed my own syllabus, taught and examined research, masters and undergraduate work. I assessed students’ work, using both traditional methods of examination (such as marking essays, listening and oral comprehension tests) and also performative or creative expressions and interpretations of the different ideas and theories we covered in my classes.